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Forum History

 

The Forum was established by the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe  (Warsaw, May 2005), to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and citizens' participation.

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Forum previous sessions

Forum_Democracy2011

(Limassol, Cyprus, October)

Interdependence of democracy and social cohesion.

New: Proceedings

"Radical measures taken in many countries to try to balance public budgets are both necessary and understandable” but  “Countries are running a high risk of seriously undermining the European model of social cohesion.”  declared Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland while opening the Cyprus Forum.

2010

(Yerevan, October)

Perspectives 2020 Democracy in Europe - Principles and Challenges

Proceedings

 

''The Council of Europe has a unique strategic role to play in strengthening good democratic governance at all levels in the European space''. Democracy, or rather good democratic governance, is now not only intrinsically linked to the respect of human rights but is also recognised as the most effective form of governance to ensure stability, sustainability and well-being.

 That was the main message of the 2010 Forum.

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2009

(Kyiv, October)

Electoral systems: strengthening democracy in the 21st century

(Proceedings)

 "In a genuine democracy, the citizen is sovereign and the voter decides" - that was the main message of the 2009 Forum, which highlighted the need for greater public involvement, with a view to increasing voter turnout and ensuring that all stages of public life are democratic..

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2008

(Madrid, October)

"E-democracy: who dares?"

 

The discussions addressed the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on democracy.

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2007

(Stockholm, June)

"Power and empowerment - The interdependence of democracy and human rights"

 

This event addressed issues such as the role and responsibilities of the opposition, representative democracy at the local and regional level, empowerment of the individual and non-discrimination, respect for freedom of expression and association for civil society, and fostering democracy, human rights and social networks.

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2006

(Moscow, October)

"The role of political parties in the building of democracy"

 

The Forum reflected on  the role and responsibilities of political parties in finding democratic solutions to contemporary challenges, the interaction between political parties and with other actors in the democratic process, and the building and strengthening of democratic institutions.

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Launch meeting (Warsaw, November 2005)

"Citizens' participation"

 

 

The discussions addressed the state of contemporary democracy in Europe.

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Previous projects

("Making

Democratic institutions work")

 

Address by Yavuz Mildon, President of the
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Ladies and gentlemen,

In May 2005 the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe in Warsaw reaffirmed that safeguarding democracy and ensuring its progress towards participatory democracy – a truly citizen-centred democracy – was the core objective of our Organisation. The Heads of State and Government particularly underlined the importance of local and regional government in this process, as the foundation of our democratic society.

This goes without saying, because the development of our towns and regions provides a basis for national development and because it is in our local and regional communities that citizen participation in democratic processes starts. Indeed, the principle of participation is even enshrined in the European Charter of Local Self-Government which stipulates that “the right of citizens to participate in the conduct of public affairs is one of the democratic principles that are shared by all member States of the Council of Europe”.

It is also true that local and regional development can no longer be “ordained” from above but must involve local and regional authorities, the elected representatives who defend the interests and concerns of the “men and women in the street”. It is thanks to their hands-on experience and their capability for putting our theoretical proposals into practice that the discussions during this Forum can yield tangible results for our citizens.

That is why the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, the representative body of over 200,000 such authorities on our continent, has been actively involved in the proceedings of the Forum on the Future of Democracy since it was first established back in 2005, pursuant to the decisions taken at the Warsaw Summit. That is also why the Congress, in its own work, attaches special importance to citizens’ democratic participation in all fields, including through the use of modern communication technologies and e-tools, the theme of the current Forum here in Madrid.

We firmly believe that local and regional tiers of government are the natural areas for applying electronic democracy, testing new tools and above all analysing the public response, the “feedback”. E-voting, for example, is already being used in a growing number of municipalities – a ready example are the municipal elections in Finland on 26 October, which will be observed by the Congress. Public debates at local level are increasingly being thrown open to public participation via the Internet, and access to cyberspace –indeed, the level of digitisation of towns and regions has become an important aspect of the implementation of the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy and the Council of Europe’s Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at local level. Needless to say, computerised viewing facilities have a really revolutionary effect on, and are of enormous assistance to, urban and rural spatial development.

In 2005 the very year the Forum on the Future of Democracy was founded, the Congress gave voice to its thinking on e-democracy in the resolution and the recommendation on new information and communication technologies as a new opportunity for local democracy. In these texts, adopted in 2006 and aimed chiefly at young people’s participation, the Congress called on local authorities to bridge the digital gap by providing access to modern technologies to all groups of users, irrespective of their social background or geographical location, and particularly to underprivileged groups.

These texts have just been supplemented by the recommendations and resolutions this year on e-tools as an answer to the needs of local authorities and on electronic democracy and deliberative consultation on urban projects, adopted at the Congress plenary session in May. We reasserted our belief that new information technologies will change the face of local democracy and that e-democracy is an instrument which can be used to counter citizens’ disengagement and disillusionment with regard to public affairs and to build dialogue and trust, which are essential to good governance.

Electronic tools also help improve working methods and modernise administrations and public services and, as such, they open up very broad perspectives for local and regional authorities and their elected members. By using them we will be able not only to carry out more effective work and to organise it better but also to reach those who do not normally participate in political life.

The public authorities have a dual role to play in this process: firstly as decision-makers and service providers and secondly as agents of society which inform, encourage and initiate change. Electronic-participation helps to mobilise civil society as a whole and to strengthen ties between the different levels of governance; in fact it goes further than mere consultation on projects and creates a new citizen culture that increases citizens’ commitment at local and regional level, by ensuring that people are properly informed.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Public authorities at all levels of governance now have to confront the political disengagement of the citizens and the lack of confidence in elected representatives and political institutions. These trends demand the regeneration of democratic practices, greater transparency and greater citizen participation in the decision-making processes.
E-democracy, the use of the new communication and information tools, gives us the opportunity to respond to these concerns by opening the doors to the creation of a new environment for consultation and participation, the “citizen environment”. It helps us extend our efforts to remote areas and to reach out to and draw in the most disaffected citizens, by expounding complex issues with high-quality information that is readily understandable and by encouraging transparency and the expression of individual as well as collective opinions.
E-democracy nevertheless requires a learning process that brings about an indispensable change of attitude and behaviour on the part of the public authorities, the citizens, the associations and the economic players. Elected representatives themselves are trying out new ways of conducting dialogue with their fellow-citizens, thereby enhancing their representativeness. That is why appropriate training for public authorities, elected representatives and citizens is crucial to the success of our efforts and should be encouraged at all levels - national, local or regional.
Another important component in the success of e-democracy is the legislative and legal framework, which also requires co-ordination of the action of governments, parliaments, local and regional authorities and civil society.
Only by combining our energies, those of our citizens, in a participative environment can we ensure the ongoing sustainable development of our democratic society. Modern technologies have opened the door for us. It is time to cross the threshold.
Thank you.